At the NBA’s rookie photo shoot, the 42 freshly drafted players in attendance were all asked a variety of questions for the league’s annual rookie survey. And when it came time for them to pick “which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the draft?” at least one of them answered “Talen Horton-Tucker.”
And before you ask, no, players were not allowed to vote for themselves.
John Schumann of NBA.com compiled all of the rookie’s answers in a roundup of the survey that can be read here, and other than LeBron James being voted as their favorite player by the majority of the rookies, there wasn’t a whole lot of Lakers love in the voting. That makes sense, and is reflective of the new stage of team building that L.A. is in now after trading almost all of their young players and draft picks for Anthony Davis.
In that sense, Horton-Tucker is one of the last few young players with upside that the Lakers have invested in, along with Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. But Horton-Tucker has the distinction of being this team’s only draft pick, and only rookie with a guaranteed contract, so him panning out would be a big help to the Lakers if they want to extend their current winning window.
And while Horton-Tucker wasn’t the top pick among his fellow rookies to be the biggest steal in relation to their draft spot — that honor went to Bol Bol and Kevin Porter Jr. — he was one of a few players to also get at least a vote. The full results are below:
1. Bol Bol (44), Denver — 19%
Kevin Porter Jr. (30), Cleveland — 19%
3. Carsen Edwards (33), Boston — 5%
Nassir Little (25), Portland — 5%
Isaiah Roby (45), Dallas — 5%
Coby White (7), Chicago — 5%
Grant Williams (22), Boston — 5%
Others receiving votes: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17), New Orleans; Brandon Clarke (21), Memphis; Jaxson Hayes (8), New Orleans; Talen Horton-Tucker (46), L.A. Lakers; Keldon Johnson (29), San Antonio; Mfiondu Kabengele (27), LA Clippers; Romeo Langford (14), Boston; Jordan Poole (28), Golden State; Cam Reddish (10), Atlanta; Luka Samanic (19), San Antonio; Admiral Schofield (42), Washington; Quinndary Weatherspoon (49), San Antonio; Dylan Windler (26), Cleveland
That’s obviously a crowded field, but there are reasons to be optimistic about Horton-Tucker. One is his age. At just 18 years old, Horton-Tucker has a ton of theoretical room to develop as he ages. Around the time he was drafted, there were those who thought he might have been a lottery pick next year had he went back to school.
Instead, Horton-Tucker chose to enter the professional ranks, where he’ll likely be locked in the gym with the Lakers’ player development staff, and spend plenty of time getting minutes in the G League as well. Will that allow him to unlock his full potential as a thick, somewhat positionless playmaker? Only time will tell, but it’s not surprising when looking at his raw skills that some of his fellow rookies think he could end up being a steal of a 46th overall pick.
The Lakers’ scouts have had some luck at that spot in the past, unearthing Jordan Clarkson with another No. 46 pick purchased for cash on draft night. Horton-Tucker is entering a much different situation than Clarkson is, and is also a younger and totally different player. Still, there are reasons to believe he can similarly outperform his draft stock. Now it’s just up to him to actually go out there and do it.
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